The world's enduring dictators: Muammar Qaddafi, Libya

ROME - AUGUST 29: Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi arrives at Ciampino airport on August 29, 2010 in Rome, Italy. Gadaffi is on an official two-day visit to Italy for talks with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The visit also marks the second anniversary of a friendship treaty between Italy and Lybia. (Photo by Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images)
Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images
Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi
Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images
This is an installment in the WorldWatch series, "The world's enduring dictators," inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, in which takes a look at the men who continue to rule their lands unimpeded by law. See a complete explanation of the series and a list of others profiled here.

Muammar Qaddafi, Libya

Length of rule: 42 years. A former army colonel, Qaddafi was the head of government in his country and completely dominated its political scene with his self-invented "Jamahiriya" governing system since taking power in a bloodless military coup in 1969.

Feature page: The world's enduring dictators

Most despotic acts: Among Qaddafi's many despotic offenses, there includes: Offering bounties for domestic enemies living abroad; the systematic detention and torture of political opponents; and the massacre of over 1,200 prisoners in 1996. In addition to his many domestic acts of despotism, Qaddafi is accused of sponsoring and ordering international terrorism. Some of the acts of international terrorism he is accused of being behind include the shooting down of a French airliner in 1989, the bombing of a Berlin disco in 1986, the funding of the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985, and the ordering of the famous bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.

How the change happened: A international military coalition backed a rebel group by enforcing a no-fly zone and taking part in a bombing campaign in support of rebel advances. The rebel operation culminated in "Operation Mermaid," a coordinated push on the capital Tripoli from all directions. Qaddafi clung bitterly to his rule until the last minute, giving an address to the nation just hours before being deposed in which he implored the Libyan people to "get out of your homes and stop this from happening. Crawl towards Tripoli. All tribes should take part. Do it or you will become slaves of the French occupiers and their Italian allies. To rebels, return from where you came from. NATO won't protect you from the rage of the Libyan people."

Libya stats:

Population: 6,461,454; Berber and Arab 97 percent, other 3 percent; Median Age is 24

Constitution and the Rule of Law: The Qaddafi-invented Jamahiriya (a state of the masses) which, in theory, is a combination of socialism and Islamic law whereby the state is governed by the populace through local councils; in practice, it is an authoritarian state. Everyday law is based on Italian and French civil law systems and Islamic law.

Economic Indicators: Overall GDP is $89 billion (world rank is 74); Per capita GDP is $13,800 (world rank is 84); unemployment rate of 30% (world rank is 181).

Press freedom index world rank: 160

World Rulers
  • Joshua Norman

    Joshua Norman is a Senior Editor at